Our first neighborhood flourished in the shadows of the Istanbul’s Trump Towers. It remained relatively untouched from the business district that developed around it. The neighborhood is called Gulbag (pronounced Gool-bah). Its residents vary from families and university students, to recent African refugees. There are two large mosques and two public schools in this small neighborhood. On week days you can hear the school bells throughout the day (the same tune of the ice cream truck from my childhood). Five times a day, the mosques in the area would broadcast their call to prayer, a few seconds before or after the others in the neighborhood.
I was the first foreigner many of the store owners had ever met, and often was the first person they had ever heard speak their own native tongue. I developed relationships with my favorite vendors in the neighborhood by dispensing daily greetings and pleasantries. One shopkeeper would always give me small treats when he ran into me at the end of a long day. It was in these exchanges where I practiced and developed my Turkish, and began to feel a part of the community where I resided. In the 15 minute walk that led to the metro from our apartment, we would walk through the three bustling commercial streets. On these three streets, anything and everything could be found at some of the cheapest prices in Istanbul.
We observed a lot of development in the neighborhood during the two years that we lived there. New modern apartments were built, an office building opened, a park was renovated and the roads were widened. The face of Gulbag changed during this time, and will probably continue to do so as the city develops around it. These are some of the first pictures that I took in the neighborhood in October 2009 in my effort to capture the Gulbag we knew as home.